Hardware is hard – The End Of The CrunchPad

Computers & Mobile Craft & Design
Hardware is hard – The End Of The CrunchPad

2689708043 3Afee5Af69 O
The CrunchPad, named Popular Mechanic’s 10 most brilliant products of the year (although it never came out) is not happening. Mike writes –

The entire project self destructed over nothing more than greed, jealousy and miscommunication… I’m enraged, embarrassed, and just…sad.

I bet there’s more to this story… Here’s what Ladyada who makes hardware thinks

Although it may seem like an irrelevant point, I’m guessing the price was a big contributor to the project death. Why? because when you say up front (with no experience in hardware/manufacturing design) that you’re going to sell it for $x the scramble then becomes “how can each party squeeze margin out?” When theres very little margin, parties are more willing to bluff knowing that they can walk away and there was almost no $ on the table. Hardware has this problem, and I’ve seen it so many times, that the founder prices the hardware at only a bit (say ~30%) above the parts cost, not realizing the tons of NRE expenses, ballooning BOM, contractor costs, and the hundreds of other ways the price can easily double. Then they’re stuck: the investors/contract manufacturer/designer/customer hates them. That leads to abandonment. Please please please, if you decide to do any kind of hardware, add an extra 40% margin on top of whatever you pick. If you don’t need it, you can always cut the price later! :)

When there was a lot of buzz about the CrunchPad many curious gadget fans asked me about their “open source” and “open source hardware” tablet. I wasn’t sure if it was going to happen, it’s expensive, margins are tough, doing hardware is hard. A lot of web commenters said “exactly, this is so easy now” just get some screens, load up linux and have it boot in to a browser, it’s a weekend project, DONE!”. For folks who do hardware there’s more to it than that beyond demo-ware.

I also was worried about the marketing of the CrunchPad said “open source” just to get good will and support, this happens a lot.

Here’s what was said…

In the founding July 21, 2008 manifesto “We Want A Dead Simple Web Tablet For $200. Help Us Build It. Michael Arrington wrote: “So let’s design it, build a few and then open source the specs so anyone can create them.” “If everything works well, we’d then open source the design and software and let anyone build one that wants to.”

On the “The End Of The CrunchPad” post Mike writes…

It was so close I could taste it. Two weeks ago we were ready to publicly launch the CrunchPad. The device was stable enough for a demo. It went hours without crashing. We could even let people play with the device themselves – the user interface was intuitive enough that people “got it” without any instructions. And the look of pure joy on the handful of outsiders who had used it made the nearly 1.5 year effort completely worth it.

This sounds like it’s in a good spot to open up the designs, right? So as a follow up I’ve asked if they’re going to stick to what they said. I’m hoping they publish something.

I posted my question on TechCrunch

mike – phil from MAKE magazine here. you said many times that the project was an open source project (the hardware and the software) – where are the files, the schematics, the source code, the PCB files, etc? is it correct to assume that “fusion garage” is not going to release any source or continue this project as an open source (software/hardware project)? if that’s the case it seems like “open source” was used again just to get good will and marketing and not really put any value in.

I also sent TechCrunch an email directly (12/1/2009 – no reply yet).

Post your thoughts in the comments!

16 thoughts on “Hardware is hard – The End Of The CrunchPad

  1. Darian Lewis says:

    The aforementioned greed appears to be rearing its ugly head again. All that can be said to assuage the fears of a profit-less endeavor is to advise the would-be creators to take a close look at the Arduino, Makerbot, Android, and many other true open source projects.

    The model isn’t “give it all away”, it’s to let people invest their time and talents in making it their own. If you look at the examples cited, you can see that when good things are created, there is a demand created along with them for pre-constructed ready to go parts, sub assemblies and yes, fully finished products. If they are running into price point problems why not release the schematics and parts and let people help them find a way around it.

    Just an open source thought.

  2. CrashPad says:

    Companies like Chumby, Buglabs, SparkFun, EMSL, Adafruit, and Arduino should all be commended for walking the walk not just talking the talk when it comes down to open source. The CrunchPad was never going to be open source.

  3. Ed Ostling says:

    PT, I think you are dead on with this. Michael Arrington started this project with the notion of Open source in mind. It is high time he keeps his word. Same thing goes for Nicholas Negroponte’s failed XO-2 tablet that dissolved into vaporware as well.

    Personally I am sick and tired of people like Arrington and Negroponte making claims of going open source, then once a functional prototype exists, they dissolve the project(read as sell it to Apple or Microsoft amirite). Its high time one of these people lives up to their word and lets the public take a crack at it. And if they don’t, I hope one of the lead designers holds them to their word. Lastly I think if Arrington did wise up and go public with the Crunchpad design materials, it would solve his legal matters on this in the most elegant and meaningful way.

  4. product designer blazingpencils says:

    The perceived benefit is lacking -it’s simply a giant i-Phone with less capability & fewer apps. And the ergonomics of reaching all over a giant touch screen are less appealing than thumbing for the average couch potato.
    Better to have your ()phone as the controller with a large screen emulation. Add stylus for better control.

  5. Majo says:

    Phil… Majo aka @JoeHobot here from Mwd.com — To be honest I agree with you above and just to add I don’t think that it ever existed, prototype maybe a selfish gadget for M.A and maybe few others but other than that GPL was misused again.

    Your ? will never be answered and if it will be , than will sound like a political statement.

    You have wonderful day, think about feature PC tablet :)

  6. Hans says:

    This whole thing sounds a bit fishy to me: A nontechnical blogger (I think he studied law) states that he wants a electronics device, finds a team and is shouting it from the roof…

    I actually designed and built a electronics device that is now in more than 50.000 households, but I can tell you that it was no picknick, we got our share of redesigns and issues. We worked only with local people, because it is much easier in communication and all the people in our little team had an engineering degree. My advice to anyone who wants to built electronics hardware: keep it absolutelly as simple as possible: the bigger/more the ICs, the more issues you will have!

    BTW I emailed Michael that I had experience and wanted to help, but no reaction…

  7. Anonymous says:

    I like this Crunch pad. It is such a nice information about the Crunch pad. The Crunchpad is set to break new pricing ground for tablets.

  8. Anonymous says:

    I like this Crunch pad. It is such a nice information about the Crunch pad. The Crunchpad is set to break new pricing ground for tablets.

Comments are closed.

Discuss this article with the rest of the community on our Discord server!

current: @adafruit - previous: MAKE, popular science, hackaday, engadget, fallon, braincraft ... howtoons, 2600...

View more articles by Phillip Torrone
Maker Faire Bay Area 2023 - Mare Island, CA

Escape to an island of imagination + innovation as Maker Faire Bay Area returns for its 15th iteration!

Buy Tickets today! SAVE 15% and lock-in your preferred date(s).